I still think we’re a long way from declaring the Vikings Super Bowl contenders and Brett Favre the franchise’s unlikely savior. But, I’m willing to admit that, after Sunday’s game, my enthusiasm for this wacky experiment has risen one or two notches.
Favre did a few things Sunday to slightly inflate my hopes. One: He absorbed a fair amount of physical punishment, and in typical Favre fashion, kept popping up. Two: He showed that vaunted child-like sense of fun, leading me to believe he is sincere when he says he still loves playing. Three: Though he didn’t get many opportunities to show off his Favrian magic, he did demonstrate that he can do more than merely manage the game when called upon.
One specific play got me a tiny bit fired up: It was in the third quarter, when John Sullivan got torched by Shaun Rogers, giving up a sack and, adding insult to injury, being called for holding. The Browns declined the penalty, leaving the Vikes in 2nd and 18. This is the sort of situation where, with Tarvaris Jackson in there, you think, “Don’t do anything stupid. Just get a few yards and punt.”
So what does Favre do? Hit Percy Harvin for a 21-yard gain and a first down.
I’m not saying T-Jack or Sage couldn’t pull off such a play occasionally. I’m just saying, if I’m in need of such a play, I’m going to choose Favre over either of those guys. 100 times out of 100.
There wasn’t much spectacular from Favre on Sunday, but there were a lot of little things. Like tossing it up to Sidney Rice twice and getting a near-reception – his foot may have been in, by the way – and then a pass interference call.
I’m pretty sure Tarvaris wouldn’t have even tried either of those throws. He wouldn’t have seen what Favre saw. He certainly wouldn’t have had the nerve to try the same thing a second time after it failed the first time.
It helps to have a quarterback who can feel his way through the game, relying on instinct, instead of just mindlessly executing the gameplan.
Of course, if Favre does that kind of thing too much and starts throwing picks, Chilly is not going to be happy. Chilly may like the wrinkles Brett can bring to a game, but what he doesn’t like is someone going out there and trashing his kick-ass gameplan.
The great thing about Week 1 was that Favre didn’t have to trash the gameplan. The gameplan worked. Adrian Peterson held up his end, big-time. And Favre played his role. And, for most of the second half, there was perfect harmony between the Chilly way of doing things and the Brett way.
This harmonic convergence of classic Childress conservative football and Favrian feel is what gives me a slight glimmer of optimism. It was really quite lovely to watch, actually. The way Childress and Favre seemed to, if I may be slightly gushy, complete each other.
Childress wants to run the ball, not take chances, work clock, move it relentlessly downfield and score when the chances present themselves. Brett, we know, wants to fire the thing all over the place, go for the gusto, make crazy flips over his shoulder and engage in other improvisational craziness.
But, this seems to be a new Favre, one who understands that the wacky schoolyard football style is in his past now. He seems content, so far, to play the so-called game manager role. He has allowed himself to mesh with Chillyball, which is all about playing it safe.
In a weird way, Childress may be the perfect coach for Favre at this point in his career. Because Favre is not the player he was five years ago. He is not able to take a team on his shoulders and carry them to a title. The Jets found that out last season, the hard way. Eric Mangini allowed himself to get outside his offensive comfort zone; he allowed Favre’s presence to change his team’s identity, and it didn’t work (the same way it won’t work for the Bears if they allow Jay Cutler‘s presence to change the way they go about their business).
Childress, being the stubborn guy he is, will not change the way he does things, even if he has Brett Favre at quarterback. Yes, he may bend over backward to make Favre happy in other areas – training camp, personnel decisions, locker room accommodations – but there’s no way Chilly will ever change his football philosophy. The KAO will stay the KAO, with Favre or without him.
So, Chilly has imposed a certain discipline on Favre, a discipline he sorely needed. And Favre, as the season wears on, may encourage Chilly to slightly open up the offense, though he will never change Chilly’s fundamental approach.
If the Vikings succeed, it will be because Favre and Chilly continue to strike this perfect balance. If they flop, it will be because Favre loses patience with Chillyball and starts making bad plays. But, I think, Favre will only lose patience if the team starts struggling. If they keep playing like they did against the Browns? Favre will stay happy. Chilly will stay happy. And I will start to believe.
A little bit.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Eric Mangini, Jay Cutler, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Percy Harvin, Sage Rosenfels, Sidney Rice, Super Bowl, Tarvaris Jackson